Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Spelling lessons

So, today Jane shared with us about her spelling, ejaan, in the new school. Instead of individuals being forced to memorized words, such as the practice in her previous SJKC, her Bahasa teacher divided the class into two groups. Then she gave the spelling - fill in the missing characters. The students in each group will work with each other to attempt the words. The groups with the highest final school will win some candies.

I was so impressed when I heard this. This is a great and fun way to learn. Group learning and encouragement by rewards.

Sometimes I have to double check myself whether this is a private school or Sekolah Kebangsaan. My faith in Malaysia education is growing.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Why did we choose Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Megah?

Which school did we transfer Jane to, that's probably what is in your mind? The graphics and the title above would have informed you the name of this school. But why this school?

We first heard of Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Megah from a friend. Her 8 and 11 year old daughters are now studying there. Typically, she doesn't really talk much about the school but when probed further, she told us all about the school. There are few things she said which struck me really hard. The first being that the kids and the staff in the school are a happy lot. Yes, even the staff. She said when you go to the school and talked to the teachers, the Headmistress Puan Khoo or even the office staff, you will feel an ambiance of  warmth and politeness from everyone. It's a very pleasant feeling, unlike many schools where the atmosphere is cold. And she also said that the children there, her own two daughters, are always looking forward to school.

The second thing she said which also left an impression to me is that this school teaches Science and Mathematics in English! That's a huge plus in my book. Seriously huge plus! Oh ya, and they have a small number of students and that the classes are only morning session. Another big plus as the SJKC which Jane went to is in the afternoon.

The school also have students exchange program and various boot camps. The students exchange program is for Primary 5 and 6 students and the school have collaborations with schools in Thailand, Indonesia and Australia. I am not sure what is the way is with other schools but during my time, international students exchange program is unheard of, especially in a national school.

She said was that there are a lot of parents participation in the school, for instance, parents do have activities in Tues and Thurs morning, such as doing sketches or reading, which creates a different learning environment for the students.

Finally, this might be small thing to some, but it displayed the sort of management of the school is that the toilet is extremely clean! I still remember my old school's toilet in Sentul. It was a horrendous haunted toilet which is so smelly, I wonder who will ever do big business in there.

We went to the school with Jane. It's a small little school that was dwarfed by a bigger SJKC Yuk Chai right beside it. One might just miss out this quaint little clusters of building among the taller and more grand Yuk Chai. Chinese funding makes a lot of difference as compared to government funding, huh? But anyway, when we were in the school and looking for the office, one student stopped us and asked us, in English, whether she could helped us and pointed us to the direction of the office. While we were there asking for the transfer procedure, we could also see a few other parents in line, also asking for transfers although their kids are in Primary Three and Four.

The staff were courteous and helpful. Everyone is in good cheer in the school. It does feel very different. In the office, we learned that the transfer is not as straight forward as it involved going to the Ministry and needing to take an assessment.

In that visit, Jane told us she like the school, she thinks and that was where we start the wheel rolling for the transfer.

I also did Google search about the school. They have a Facebook page which they made many of their announcements to parents. They have a dedicated website sktm.edu.my and I also read about a parent write up of the school here.

There's also a pretty good video in their Facebook page done by the students. It will give you a general idea of the activities in the school.


Thank you, Helina...for sharing such a wonderful video... bringing back some sweet memories....of SKTM!
Posted by SK Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya on Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Process for Transferring School

So, I decided to stop my eldest daughter from her Primary One in Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina (Chinese Primary School) because of the insane military regime when it comes to grinding homework. So we had to transfer her out and we decided to put her back to a national school (Sekolah Kebangsaan).

What's the current process?

Actually, it is pretty straight forward. Go to the SJKC school's office and inform them that you want to transfer your child out. They have a form for you to fill. Once you filled it up, the school will issue you a Surat Berhenti. You take the letter to the Ministry of Education (*) - in our case, it is Kementerian Pendidikan in Section 4, Shah Alam (Jalan Jambu Bol 4/3E, Seksyen 4).

If you know which school you want to go, you can inform the officer there. Even then, they have to call the school to find out if they have place for another student. If that school is full, then the officer will select another school near where you live.

Processing probably take a day or two. You returned back to Shah Alam and they will give you a letter of acceptance or a letter of transfer, pending acceptance from the new school. The reason for the second letter is that some school requires your child to take assessment before they will admit your child. The letter from the Ministry is a request that this child want to transfer, acceptance is up to the school.

As mentioned in my previous post, there are Kluster Kecemerlangan schools and there are Berprestasi Tinggi school. The latter is also known as High Performance schools and they are highly sought after and thus, the school need to maintain certain standards before they can admit new students. These schools even require 6 year olds who is doing a new application to the school to take assessment, so they are even more stringent when it comes to 7 year olds, 8 year olds and above.

Once your child have passed the assessment, the school will accept you and will similarly issue a letter to you, copy the Ministry and copying the previous school. You bring this letter back to the old school and complete the transfer out. And then you take the child to the new school to transfer in.

(*) note: the reason the Ministry is involved is because we are changing stream (aliran) from a Chinese school to a National school. I heard that it is even easier if you are changing from one Chinese school to the other i.e. they are the same stream. Probably, you do not need to involve the Ministry - I am not sure here as I didn't go through this path.

Chinese School vs National Kebangsaan School

My eldest girl, Jane, turned 7 this year. She started Primary One. There was no doubt in our mind which type of school for her. It had to be Chinese School aka SJKC (Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina), of course. With the poor state of our national schools as well as the horror stories one hears about the flip flop of the syllabus plus the laziness of the teachers, most Malaysian Chinese parents will send their kids to SJKC. In fact, in the school we signed her into, I often saw many Malay and Indian students. Malays and Indians studying Chinese! This was uncommon, indeed - or perhaps, it was more common than you think.

Unfortunately, 2 months after she went to this SJKC(*), we pulled her out. Yep, we decided that Chinese school was not suitable for her. Every night she came back crying and was in fear of going to school. Every morning, she needed 30-40 minutes of prep talk before she agreed to go school. Every day she had this worried and extreme stress look on her face. When she came back in the evening, she immediately started her homework. She did her homework even while eating dinner. She was so fearful of her Bahasa Teacher, who ironically is a Chinese, that she would even chanted her ejaan (spelling) while in sleep.

She was terrified of the Bahasa Teacher who used cane to threaten the students. When she had 4 out of 8 correct spellings, she was punished - she had to stand up with two hands up on the air. One time, she forgot to bring her exercise book and was asked to stand outside the class. Actually, it's not just the Bahasa teacher. Even the Mandarin Teacher, which was her class teacher (and this teacher was one of the better ones) would also lash out milder punishment as a way to force the children to improve.

There was no joy in studying anymore. A Primary One kid were being drilled and grilled to be perfect in her school work. Every day is a day of endless grinding - writing and writing and writing so that they remembered the words - be it English, Bahasa or Mandarin.

One evening, she had a meltdown. She started screaming. Her old symptoms of fear, which used to grip her when she was a baby, was back. We knew, in that instance, that this meltdown was due to stress. Adults would break down when they had too much stress, what more a child of 7. The following day, we stopped sending her to school. Her spirits immediately changed. You could see relieve in her face when she knew she did not have to go back to school.

We spoke to many parents of the same school. One parent said that her son, who is now in Primary Two, is always in tears when doing homework. There was so much homework to do and they had to do it because of the fear instilled since young.

The other parents' son was in Primary Four and they pulled him out because they didn't think it was the proper way to educate the young. They told us that 30% of her son's friends were pulled out of the school as well. They said that if we thought there was a lot of homework at Primary One, it would get worse in Primary Three and Four. If we were thinking of pulling out, now is the time to do it. Why wait till Primary Four?

If the state of our national school was bad, Chinese school was the extreme opposites. What choices do we have? Private schools? International schools? These cost a bomb! Home schooling? We were quite lost at that time.

(*) I wanted to add that there are also many types of SJKC and Sekolah Kebangsaan. There are the normal ones, the Cluster Schools (Sekolah Kluster Kecemerlangan) and, I found out much later, there are the High Performance Schools (Sekolah Berprestasi Tinggi). The school will proudly show their status in their signage if they are Cluster Schools. This SJKC which Jane went into is a Cluster School. We enrolled her there because it's about 1km from our home.

A mech keyboard nerd's thoughts on 2017 MacBook Pro keyboard

My old Thinkpad has reached its end of life and so the company issued me a new notebook. By default, they issued a MacBook Air, but I tried ...